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Archive for May, 2009

As we are all aware, the City has experienced two serious fires in the past month that bring the condition of our aging water distribution system and hydrants to light. In response to these tragic fires, I submit the following report as to immediate and long-term actions the City has taken and is making to address identified deficiencies.

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After the first fire on Mechanic Street, City Engineer Richard Phillips, Fire Chief Rich Liberti, Corporation Council Gerry DeCusatis and I met on April 27th to discuss our concerns. From that meeting, the following actions had been taken:

Water flow had been tested in the Mechanic Street vicinity. The testing is now being expanded to the surrounding area which will encompass approximately forty hydrants, concentrating on hydrants connected by 4″ lines. We hope to complete this action within ten days. We will systematically document findings in order to develop a comprehensive hydrant strategy.

Every city-owned, vacant property was assessed for safety. An officer from the AFD walked around each structure to identify need for securing the building or if there were any hazardous or flammable materials that needed to be removed. Corrective measures were recommended to appropriate staff.

The hydrant flushing program is nearing completion and a detailed report is being generated, documenting hydrants that are problematic or out of service.

An additional hydrant module was added to the Alpine fire department/code enforcement software purchase (cost split between AFD and Engineering) to map location of hydrants and water lines. The County has provided information for the module which is suspected to have been generated from a model that was produced by McDonald Engineering several years ago.

The Common Council has budgeted for the purchase and installation of thirty new hydrants to replace the most compromised of our 1,200 hydrants around the city. McDonald Engineering will prepare bid documents and help develop replacement strategy.

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Today, we fine tuned our plan:

Fire Chief Richard Liberti will immediately develop an operational plan for emergency response on the hill, to ensure a water source is secured in the event of another fire.

City Engineer Richard Phillips will request submittal of the flushing report from the water crew.

The Engineer and Chief will meet with Tom Bates of McDonald Engineering to review a large map of the hydrants and water lines in the City, especially focusing on targeted areas of concern. We will assess what the older model McDonald contained, what we may use it for now and how it should be updated. Our long range goal will to be to incorporate GIS information into a digital mapping system for use in emergency response, planning, tracking, and maintenance of the water distribution structures.

Engineering, DPW and the AFD will be provided updated, color-coded maps which will be posted at each department for training, planning and response purposes.

We will determine the GIS coordinates of each hydrant and valve. We would like to work with college interns over the summer to gather this information, but this work may need to be hired out. This information will be incorporated into the Alpine software.

We will put together a comprehensive hydrant strategy:
– develop full inventory of hydrants (address, hydrant number, GIS location)
– determine flow rates for each (may need to be hired out)
– identify problems/prioritize response
– gather hydrant specs, history of specific hydrants
– ascertain maintenance needs: man hours per hydrant
– develop maintenance schedule, new reporting documents and protocols
– number and color-code hydrants to indicate pressure at source
– review flushing procedure with water crews to ensure turbulent flow at flushing
– fall winterization program

Managing staff will be meeting several times over the next month to move these tasks forward. Any questions or comments may be made to my office: mayorthane@choiceonemail.com.

Lastly, it should be noted that we do not have a “fire bug” starting these fires. The Mechanic Street fire was started by a thirteen old boy with a lighter and a spray can. We think the Orange Street fire may have been started by the cigarette of a resident.

Photos by Mark Perfetti

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Thank you so much to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event this year and asking me to attend. We are all grateful for the work you do on behalf of the Veterans of our community year round – from the careful tending of monuments to continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well.

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We are all called today to pay tribute to the many men and women that have died as soldiers fighting for the principles that make our country great… liberty, democracy, honor, valor, discipline, and selfless service to others. Frequently we cite the words “fallen comrades” and “ultimate sacrifice”. These are words we speak easily as we gather together to give an hour of our lives to this ceremony. For some of us, our minds may skip lightly over these words and concepts. They roll off our tongues and in listening, our minds may wander to the weather, the decorum, our families, or our busy lives.

We must stop our reverie.

Because what we have come here to do is terribly important. We must remember. We must remember that what we honor are not faceless names. These were young souls with stories to tell and more to live for. These were the faithful husbands, sisters, nephews, fathers, sons, neighbors and friends, most barely out of school, barley kissed, that had gone off from so many different circumstances to meet a common end, all in service to us.

The enormity of our loss is too important to blithely pass by. Our city and country have lost more than we can know. These family members deserve our full attention and obligation. The music of their lives is forever gone from us and we must be deeply and completely moved by grief and loss. What we have lost can never be regained… the glances, the gentle touches, smiles, children, comedy, commerce, creativity, ingenuity, determination and love.

Love, most of all.

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We must understand this loss with the constricted heart of someone receiving first word that their loved one will never return… the agony of a mother that will never hold her child again, a father that will not pass on the keys to the business or walk someone down the isle, a child that will not remember a parent’s laugh by the time they are ten. We must be breathless in our knowing. We must know the full weight of silence.

And yet, we must know gratitude. For God has granted us not only those that have given their lives for our peace and prosperity, but a community that honors these passings, and individuals that continue to dutifully care for the memories of our fallen heros. To these veteran men and women, we owe our continued thanks and support. And to those that proudly wear our uniform and honor our flag around the world today, we owe our praise and deepest appreciation. To those many fine soldiers, we all pray, come back to us safely in God’s hands.

Amen.

Top photo by Mark Perfetti, Bottom photo by Sarah Thane

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The ever articulate City Historian Robert van Hasseln has written an in-depth informational piece concerning the Chalmers project in the Recorder today. All points should be given careful consideration. It can be viewed by clicking here.

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There’s little that Bob Going and I agree about these days, but today he reposted a recording on his blog from October 2001 that is as important as it is deeply moving.

On the night of that show, the Amsterdam Oratorio, women passed out tissues to the waiting audience, which I thought was quite over the top…

until the performance began and I cried pretty much through the whole show.

I thank Mr. Going for putting up this collage of photos and the recording of the performance, “Requiem”, on YouTube. It says more about this community than anything I know.

Bravo to our composer, Maria Riccio-Brice.
God Bless our hometown.
God bless these particular young men
and all that go so bravely away never to return.
God bless the silence that takes their place.

Don’t forget.

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The City of Amsterdam is asking residents to get out their cameras to photograph the City! We are looking for pictures that capture just how beautiful and community-oriented Amsterdam really is for use on our soon-to-launch website and in printed marketing materials. IMG_1007 If you would like to participate, we’d love you to get creative with your shots – take pictures of your family, home, gardens, pets, activities and teams. Provide us with your interpretation of the beauty and close-knit nature of our City. Printed photos or digital images on CD with name, address and phone number may be submitted for consideration to the Mayor’s office at City Hall, 61 Church Street, Amsterdam, NY. Please submit your work by June 8th, though photos will be accepted year round as we update our site.

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I took a walk at lunchtime today, as it’s been far too long since I’d been out and about on my own two feet between the hours 8am and 6pm. There were so many projects, concerns, costs, politics and complaints, the office air was dense with them.

I headed up Church Street with purpose, lost in thought. My eyes followed the cement walk I traveled, hit my toes and bounced to the couple of paces ahead… the sidewalk, the road, my cares and the cars speeding by, sucking dust around my feet.

As I walked, I began to observe the green to my right. The insistent grasses, coiling grape vines, and peppering of small white flowers drew more and more of my attention. Very shortly, I was looking up into the honeysuckle and choke cherries, and further into the leaning canopy of trees.

The office was a lifetime away.

It’s amazing how unabashedly persistent and certain life is. I was forced to remember this thanks to a twenty minute walk up the hill. And what really struck me, yet again, was that this City will re-emerge after its long decline, because it lives. No matter the past, the economy, the pouting or the doubt. It will come back. I realized that I believe this with every fiber of my being.

I was able to return to the office quite refreshed.

I think I’ll be taking a walk every day.

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photo by Sarah Thane

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Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting
your heart toward heaven — only you.
It is in the middle of misery that
so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this,
is not yet listening.

– clarissa pinkola estés

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“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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The City of Amsterdam had the gift of a lovely day and lots of activity on Main Street, including Wrestling Hall of Fame festivities, decorated storefronts, the AHS Art Show, chalk drawings, face painting, fried dough, lollipops and more. All of the volunteers from all walks of life, ages 6 to 60-something deserve a giant “Well Done” and “Thank You So Much!”

The following are shots of street and gallery scenes, featuring our community’s greatest strength – its young people.

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“The greatest essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.”
– Joseph Addison, 1672-1719

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prayer

Life is short and we have not too much time
for gladdening the hearts of those
who are traveling the dark way with us.
Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.

– Henri Fredrick Amiel 1835

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The past sixteen months have the been the busiest, most gratifying time of my life. Again, my position as mayor has allowed me the priviledge of serving the community I love. I’ve spent every working hour trying to ensure that the goals outlined in our comprehensive plan, the voice of the majority of residents in our community, have been implemented. To that end, revitalization of vacant, industrial buildings had been identified as key to achieving our aspirations.

We had been fortunate early on in my administration to land the interest of well-qualified developers for both the Chalmers and Esquire sites. These were tremendously exciting prospects, as the City has been in a steady decline for decades.

We now face a crisis with far-reaching consequences. These projects may be at risk because of politics or personal agendas. Our reputation in the region and the future are too important to buckle to these interests.

Our Council needs to hear from its constitiuents in support of these efforts, so that they make balanced decisions in our regard. Please see the list of council members below and make your concerns known one-on-one. Call your ward alderman, or call all five, but please call.

Voice your opinion and if you don’t get through, leave a message.

COMMON COUNCIL MEMBERS

First Ward: Joseph Isabel
843-5185
P.O. Box 581, 26 Yale Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Second Ward: Daniel V. Roth
542-0723
7 Creekway, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Third Ward: Kim Brumley
843-4311
75 Evelyn Avenue, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Fourth Ward: William Wills
843-4660
17 Catherine St., Amsterdam, NY 12010

Fifth Ward: Richard Leggiero
843-0808
101 Florida Ave.,Amsterdam, NY 12010

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Birches

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter of fact about the ice storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from the town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

– Robert Frost, Public domain.

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poem

On a Perfect Day

… I eat an artichoke in front
of the Charles Street Laundromat
and watch the clouds bloom
into white flowers out of
the building across the way.
The bright air moves on my face
like the touch of someone who loves me.
Far overhead a dart-shaped plane softens
through membranes of vacancy. A ship,
riding the bright glissade of the Hudson, slips
past the end of the street. Colette’s vagabond
says the sun belongs to the lizard
that warms in its light. I own these moments
when my skin like a drumhead stretches on the frame
of my bones, then swells, a bellows filled
with sacred breath seared by this flame,
this happiness.

– Jane Gentry, from A Garden in Kentucky. © Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

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Bob Cudmore’s discussion of the Chalmers Project with Mr. Kaufman on 5.7.2009.

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I repeat myself here: If you’re going to take shots at me, man up and use your real name. Anonymous attacks are cowardly.

Also, I may post a comment now and then that is contrary to my stance in order to respond, but I am not going to hammer on and on about material I’ve already covered. We all know where I stand.

Again, Amsterdancin’ is my world and I’ll post what I want to. Go elsewhere if you feel ugly.

Lastly, the importance of the Chalmers restoration project to the future of this city cannot be underestimated. Once completed, this $24 million dollar venture will bring $890,000 in property tax revenues, $102,000 in water/sewer fees, $180,0000 in sales tax generated by $4.5 million dollars in sales, all ANNUALLY. The 180-luxury apartments can revitalize our downtown and waterfront area in ways that will affect generations to come. It is vitally important that the City of Amsterdam support this effort in order to create an atmosphere that is inviting to other developers. Believe me, they are following this situation.

We need to make rational, informed decisions about our future. This City must be a cooperative participant in the growth of our region.

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If you hear the dogs,
keep on going.

If you hear gunfire,
keep on going.

If you hear shouts and footsteps,
keep on going.

harriet tubman – c. 1820-1913

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poem

Optimism

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and
over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the
light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs—
all this resinous, unretractable earth.

– Jane Hirshfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt. © Harper Collins, 2002.

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It was just about a year ago that I signed, in good faith, the option agreement with Uri Kaufman to rehabilitate the Chalmers building into upscale apartments. It was the first hopeful sign of life in a long dormant development cycle for the City of Amsterdam. The document and terms had been exhaustively reviewed by each side, undergoing seven revisions, and the Common Council voted 4-1 to support it.

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Pictured above: standing – Mark Capone (AIDA), Nick Zabawsky (URA), Supervisor David Dybas, Supervisor Karl Baia, Alderman Richard Leggiero, Corporation Council Gerry DeCusatis, seated – Mayor Ann Thane, Uri Kaufman.

My concern today is that, having made our commitment in writing, it is now being suggested that we can renegotiate or back out of our agreement. Not only is this patently bad business, what message does this send to other developers looking to invest in the City of Amsterdam?

I am not dismissing the voices of a neighborhood (which I hold in very high esteem). This is about honoring a legally binding contract and holding course when the winds start to blow.

The fact is that we have agreed that Mr. Kaufman’s company may extend the option for $50,000, should he so desire, if he has substantially met the terms of the option agreement.

This is the time to live up to our word.

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In reference to the Recorder’s article today concerning the Chalmers petition being circulated, I was either misquoted or chose my word incorrectly. I don’t consider the petition objective, but rather selective, and had said so to the reporter.

What is correct is that I am disappointed that certain individuals would work so hard against a project that could be so positive for our community. One-hundred-eighty new residences will generate revenue in the way of property taxes down the line, more immediately in water/sewer fees, and in sales tax (hypothetically, people that live here will shop here) that will significantly benefit the City as a whole and the County. As has repeatedly been shown in other communities, rehabilitation of a historic structure will spur revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood and downtown.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

– Mark Twain, 1835-1910

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chorus

“If fifty million people say a foolish thing,
it is still a foolish thing.”

– Anatole France

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